Read Drawing Blood by Poppy Z. Brite Free Online
Book Title: Drawing Blood|
The author of the book: Poppy Z. Brite
ISBN 13: 9780440214922
Date of issue: October 1st 1994
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 378 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.6
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Back when Anne Rice was all the rage, dozens of authors jumped on the brooding, melodramatic historical vampire quickly turning what Rice wrote into a literary cliché. The shelves were littered with Rice wanna-be’s. Then along came Poppy Z. Brite, a short story writer who was making the horror world sit up and take notice by blending very realistic, human characters with an almost splatter-punk kind of sensibility. To boot, Brite was doing what many authors had never even contemplated. She was making gay characters the protagonists in her stories. When her first novel, Lost Souls, was released, it breathed new life into the bland, clichéd vampire that had become de rigueur, by giving us vamps that loved being what they were and mixing them with goth scene characters who were actually more than brooding, pretentious teens in black clothes, nail polish, and eyeliner. In short, she made her vampires and her other characters real people, warts and all. Her characters weren’t homoerotic. She wasn’t willing to dance around the subject. He characters were homosexual.
With Lost Souls, Brite burst on the scene and along came the comparisons to Rice, the claims by critics and Rice lovers that she must have been influenced by Rice’s writing, despite statements from Brite that she had never read Rice’s work. Wisely, Brite was not one to be satisfied with her immensely popular vampire characters (in fact, she has never returned to them despite what must have been a very lucrative temptation to), and we were treated to another reinvention by Brite, the haunted house story in her second novel, Drawing Blood.
For once, the publisher’s blurb lays out the story very well, so there is not really a need to go into the details of the plot. So, this review can be all about the writing, writing that is still as appealing as it was 15 years ago when I first read this novel.
From the beginning, Brite shows a critical eye for detail in her writing. Each locale is described fully, but never wanders off into frustrating verbosity. In very naturalistic and yet somehow poetic prose, Brite describes not only the sights of a place, but the smells as well (an often over looked area in some genres of fiction), and the result is that we get the psychological reaction of the characters to everything that is about them and a wonderful sense of time. Take this for example:
Missing Mile, North Carolina, in the summer of 1972 was scarcely more than a wide spot in the road….You might think that here was a place adrift in a gentler time, a place where Peace reigned naturally, and did not have to be blazoned on banners or worn around the neck.
And the same detail goes into her characters. The five-year-old Trevor at the beginning of the novel rings utterly true, the wide-eyed outlook of a child tempered by the reality that he has lived with a father who is unpredictable bordering on abusive. Yet, Trevor’s father isn’t reduced to some stereotyped drunkard. We get to see inside him for the brief time we know him. We see the crushed dreams, the pressures, the paranoia that lead him to do the horrible thing he does. When Bobby McGee kills his family, we as readers are horrified by it, but we can see why it happened, why it was almost inevitable. The only thing we can’t understand is why he didn’t kill Trevor as well. And that in itself is what brings Trevor back to Missing Mile some 20 years later.
We’re also introduced to Zachary Bosch, a brilliant computer hacker out of New Orleans, who finds himself dangerously on the wrong side of the law. As he flees New Orleans, we also get to meet the people important in his life, most notably Eddy, a feisty Asian American stripper who is in love with Zach but also his best buddy. But we don’t get some stereotype here either. Eddy isn’t the stock fag-hag. She’s tough, smart, inventive and someone to be reckoned with from the get go. She knows that Zach is not a good match for her. She knows she needs to move on. But she can’t and she never broods about it and never once do you feel that beyond Zach lies a life of loneliness. And the FBI agents following Zach get the full treatment as well, becoming more than one would guess in a novel of this type.
The residents of Missing Mile are equally fascinating, a mix of character traits which could have become cartoonish in lesser hands, but remain blessedly real in the human emotion underneath each of them, the force that drives them. You can see Kinsey’s smile, feel the weight of his family history. You can feel the relationship between Terry and his girlfriend. Even Calvin, who threatens to come between Zach and Trevor, has a likable streak to him.
But when the novel starts to really sing is when Trevor and Zach meet one another in Missing Mile. Both members of the walking wounded, the two cautiously get to know one another and, ultimately, become lovers. It isn’t an easy courtship given the baggage each of them carries, and it isn’t a relationship that is easy to define. There are no tops and bottoms here. No alpha or submissive. Like every relationship, it changes with the ebb and flow of time and events that draw them closer together and push them further apart. It is a wonderful exploration of who each character has been, who they want to become and who they might be together if their relationship lasts. It is, to this day, one of the fullest depictions of gay men I have ever found in literature and, hands down, some of the most erotic and real love scenes I’ve ever read.
Now, don’t get me wrong. This is not some mushy love story in the slightest. It is balls-to-the-wall horror–albeit heavy on the psychological horror. The tension is palpable, the finely tuned description, exquisite, and the dialog completely real. Each character has a purpose in this piece. Each character (and the locales themselves) has a place here. There is very little fat in this novel, each aspect weaving together easily with those that came before and those which follow. By the time we get to the climax of the book, we are utterly invested in each of these characters. We want Trevor and Zach to survive. We can’t help but ache for Eddy and her loss. We understand how Missing Mile will never be the same after the events that take place in that dilapidate old house out on Violin Road. We care because Brite created characters we love despite all their faults. We care because Brite has drawn us a vivid picture of where we have been living as we took the journey along with Trevor and Zach. We care because Brite has taken the time to show us all the pieces that go into making the puzzle of man. In short, she has created a place we want to visit and characters who feel like real friends.
For me, Drawing Blood is a classic…classic horror, classic gay fiction and classic character fiction. Hell, it is even manages to be a classic romance, in the very best and non-traditional sense of the phrase. It was and remains a ground breaking literary work and should be required reading for readers and writers not only of horror, but of gay fiction, gay romance and even gay erotica. This is how it is done, folks.
Originally reviewed for Uniquely Pleasurable.
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Read information about the authorPoppy Z. Brite (born Melissa Ann Brite, now going by Billy Martin) is an American author born in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Born a biological female, Brite has written and talked much about his gender dysphoria/gender identity issues. He self-identifies almost completely as a homosexual male rather than female, and as of 2011 has started taking testosterone injections. His male name is Billy Martin.
He lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Athens, Georgia prior to returning to New Orleans in 1993. He loves UNC basketball and is a sometime season ticket holder for the NBA, but he saves his greatest affection for his hometown football team, the New Orleans Saints.
Brite and husband Chris DeBarr, a chef, run a de facto cat rescue and have, at any given time, between fifteen and twenty cats. Photos of the various felines are available on the "Cats" page of Brite's website. They have been known to have a few dogs and perhaps a snake as well in the menagerie. They are no longer together.
During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Brite at first opted to stay at home, but he eventually abandoned New Orleans and his cats and relocated 80 miles away to his mother's home in Mississippi. He used his blog to update his fans regarding the situation, including the unknown status of his house and many of his pets, and in October 2005 became one of the first 70,000 New Orleanians to begin repopulating the city.
In the following months, Brite has been an outspoken and sometimes harsh critic of those who are leaving New Orleans for good. He was quoted in the New York Times and elsewhere as saying, in reference to those considering leaving, "If you’re ever lucky enough to belong somewhere, if a place takes you in and you take it into yourself, you don't desert it just because it can kill you. There are things more valuable than life."
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